Breathing Anew

Breathing Anew

While watching shows like Hawaii 5-0 I had heard the term “haoles,” when the Islanders would refer to white folk, but I just found out what the terms means. In Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Walk on Water, she relates that the religious practice before the Europeans landed on the Islands was to sit outside their temples for an extended period of time, preparing themselves for worship through meditation. After this period of preparation, they would creep inside reverently to offer their prayers at the altar, then would leave, once again sitting for a length of time, to “breathe life” into their prayers. When the missionaries came to the islands, they would quickly go into their churches, speak a few sentences, and having said “Amen” they would leave, quickly done. This is why the Islanders called them “haoles,” because it means “without breath.” The missionaries did not take time to breathe life into their prayers.

While we can give many good reasons for the differences in approach between the Islanders and Christians, including that we are told to “come boldly to the throne of grace,” and to “pray without ceasing” (not just at an altar), it is convicting when we think about it. Are our prayers and our worship perfunctory? Have they descended into ritual, or do they have life and breath in them? Do we take time to prepare our hearts before coming before the Lord—whether for our private time in the Word and prayer, or when we come to public worship? Do we still and quiet our souls? Or do we rush in and rush out like haoles? When others witness our worship, do they catch the fragrance of a relationship? Do they see that we are connected in a living, breathing way with the One we claim to worship, or is what they see empty, dead, and without breath?

Worship at the public altar begins at the private one. If our worship is to be our witness, it must be born in the stillness of our daily time with the Lord, basking in His presence and His Word. As we abide in the sweet fragrance of the Breath of the Spirit, the life and breath of the Lord will course through us. We will be like it was remarked about the disciples, “[the observers] we astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). We are not to worship as a show, but if anyone should observe, may they not mistake us for haoles, but see that we indeed have the breath of God in us.

As we go into this new year, let us examine our lives, feeling for our spiritual pulse, measuring our respiration to see our level of health. Let us take time to really breathe, stilling and quieting our souls in His presence—not rushing in and rushing out. Let’s make this a new beginning, asking God to breathe new life into our relationship with Him.